Less than five months after the suicide of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills husband Russell Armstrong, executive producer and Bravo executive Andy Cohen defended how the show handled the situation at Bravo's winter TV previews Saturday.
"I think what emerged is a story of a woman trying to extricate herself from a marriage, in which she was unhappy, in which domestic violence was playing a part," Cohen told reporters.
Armstrong committed suicide in August after wife Taylor Armstrong filed for divorce in July amid accusations of physical abuse. Following his suicide, Russell Armstrong's mother, John Ann Hotchkiss, said in September that she believed the reality series "brought him down" and says he told her he was very worried about how he would be portrayed in Season 2. "[He said,] 'Mom, they're just going to crucify me this season.' And he said, 'I don't know what to do. I'll never survive it.'"
"He was given the option to come back or not come back and he chose to come back [for Season 2]," Cohen said Saturday, adding that Armstrong spoke to producers about how much the show had helped his business.
The show was, however, re-edited before its September premiere. (A scene showing Taylor lingerie shopping to spice up the couple's sex life, for instance, was cut.) Subsequent episodes have shown Russell and Taylor's therapy sessions and a handful of verbal disagreements between them, as well as conflict between Russell and some of the other cast members. In the most recent episode, Taylor was heard on the phone telling her co-stars that her marriage was over.
When speaking about the expansion of Bravo's late-night series, Watch What Happens: Live, Cohen discussed interviewing Taylor on the normally light program in what was one of her first interviews since the suicide. "What I wanted to do was maintain the integrity of what we do on Watch What Happens: Live, what we do is fun," Cohen said. "This was an interview that was very serious, and she also wanted to have fun. ... But the audience hadn't really seen her that much. It wasn't necessarily a time to be fun."
The compromise? The first 10 minutes of Armstrong's sit-down was somber before the show segued into one of its signature WWHL games.
Cohen also said that the upcoming Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 2 reunion, which was shot earlier this week, will address Russell's suicide even further. "We talked about everything serious that you can imagine."
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs Mondays at 9/8c on Bravo.